Pirelli will face a tall order next week as the second round of the FIA WRC Academy moves to Greece for the most demanding round of the championship: the Acropolis Rally (25-27 May).
Renowned as one of the toughest rallies on the world rally calendar due to the blisteringly hot weather conditions and rock-stewn roads, Pirelli will be on hand to supply the WRC Academy crews with the highly successful K4 tyre.
Pirelli has developed a version of the K4 tyre specifically to suit the Ford Fiesta R2 in 175/70-15 K4 size. Based on the vastly successful Scorpion cover that was used on the World Rally Championship from 2008-2010, the K4 WRC Academy tyre is lighter than the Scorpion with a focus on performance as well as outright durability.
Crews competing in this year’s WRC Academy now span four continents with the recent announcement that South Africa’s Ashley Haigh-Smith has signed up to the six-round series. The driver is able to take advantage of a new rule for 2012 that allows crews to nominate five out of six rounds to score points. Moreover, confirmation of Haigh-Smith’s entry now means drivers from Africa, Australia, North America and Europe will be competing for championship honours.
After his win on the opening round in Portugal, Britain’s Alastair Fisher is currently leading the WRC Academy by eight points. To help him prepare for his assault on the world stage, the Northern Irish driver has been busy competing in the Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship at the wheel of a Fiesta R2.
Former Pirelli Star Driver Global Shootout winner, Brendan Reeves, is second in the championship. One of six selected to compete in last year’s WRC Academy backed by Pirelli, the Australian finished fifth in 2011, and will be aiming for a podium finish next week in an attempt to overhaul Fisher from the top of the leaderboard.
Last year’s Pirelli Star Driver – Elfyn Evans – finished runner-up in the highly competitive MSA British Rally Championship, and the experience has enabled the 23-year-old Welshman make the transition up to the WRC Academy where he is currently lying seventh overall.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director said: ““The Acropolis Rally is one of the toughest and most historic events on the calendar, where the Academy drivers will have to deal with high temperatures and extremely rough roads, containing plenty of rocks and loose gravel. These conditions are just as punishing for the tyres as they are for the cars and drivers, but when we were exclusive suppliers to the World Rally Championship between 2008-2010, we had a failure rate of less than 0.02%, which just underlines the strength and reliability of our products even in the most arduous conditions. So we hope that the Academy drivers will be able to learn as much as possible from the Greek stages: in order to do that, their primary objective has to be to finish the rally. The competition in the Academy is incredibly tight at the moment, which puts the emphasis on getting as much as possible out of the equipment – including the tyres – as well as natural raw speed. In order to succeed, modern rally drivers have to be the complete package: our tyres are designed to help the Academy drivers develop these vital all-round attributes.”